He had looked so tired that last time I had seen him, 4 years ago. His characteristic joy and “make it look easy” attitude were swept away by responsibilities; deep bags under the eyes, stress and lack of sleep showing in.
But now, here he was – joyful, free, relaxed, burdens gone, as if the past 5 years had been erased. His startup bet – many years of hard work, sleepless nights, transatlantic flights and countless meetings – had finally paid up. He was now one of the elite few, the top 1% in Romania. Over a morning croissant, among talking about his exit, gadgets, living abroad, holidays and life in general, he shared some of the habits and lifestyle tricks that had contributed his success.
I did my best to extract reusable life lessons from our chat, taking words out of context and trying to enrich them with my own thoughts and personal interpretation, hoping they’ll help others as well:
According to Goodreads, the most quoted fragment from the best selling book The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo is:
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”
This being the most popular quote is clear proof that people only remember the good and uplifting stories. Also, one of the reasons why “The Alchemist” is dismissed by serious critics who consider it easy reading, a “chicken soup for the soul”-like motivational book.
Way less quoted(80 times less frequently) is this other crucial fragment: (more…)
Once upon a time I owned/wrote a pretty popular website/blog on productivity and lifehacking, which was called Hack The Day (don’t look for it, it’s been closed down for years and the domain is now owned by scammers). While starting up, I reached out to popular bloggers. That’s how I succeeded in being the first small blogger published by the hottest blog on habit change, productivity and mindfulness of the decade : “Zen Habits” of Leo Babauta.
I wanted to link to it, but Leo has removed all guest posts from those days. So I managed to recover my article from some long-forgotten archive. I’m posting it here, for your enjoyment : the software-related tips might be obsolete, but the general advice retained its value.
This post is dedicated to Tibi, my parent’s godson, who asked me the above question, in a somewhat different form. A bright student now in his 2nd year of high school, he loves computers and sometimes feels that he should be taking advantage more of the opportunities that his generation takes for granted(you know, everyone having computers, internet, access to information). To be honest, his question was actually how can I earn some money after school. I twisted it around trying to cover a more useful area.
People tend to overthink the meaning of free will. I believe that free will should be taken more literally. To have free will means exactly what it says: to have the liberty of will/wish/desire/dream. Free will is not freedom. Freedom comes from free do – liberty of doing stuff, liberty of action. Free will, on the other hand, only refers to the liberty of will, of the thought and/or heart.
We don’t usually remember mundane things. Repetitive tasks somehow tend to blend together as we remember only general, global ideas. Need proof? Just ask yourself what you did in a given day in the past. Let’s say… April 27, 2001. Most people(me included) will fail remembering anything from that particular date, so they’ll just use the general information about that period, as well as their common-sense, to extrapolate what they might have been doing on that particular date. Me, I was in the last semester of my second year of college, so I probably studied, or worked on the numerous homeworks and projects. I was also, probably, spending time with my girlfriend from college. Nothing more comes to mind, though. On the other hand, what about February 17, 2000? Well, that’s a lot easier – it was my birthday, I visited my grandfather in the hospital, and it was the last time I saw him alive(he died one week later, may he rest in peace). I even remember a few of the things we talked about, and how one of the hospital roommates did a magic trick with a cigarette. What about December 31, 2007? That’s even easier – it was the date I proposed to my lovely current wife, and I can remember a lot more things from the date, including moments from the New Year’s party afterwards.
Forrester: What are you doing?
Jamal: I’m writing.[…]
Forrester: Is there a problem?
Jamal: No. I’m just thinking.
Forrester: No thinking. That comes later. You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write. Not to think.
Forrester: Start typing that. Sometimes the simple rhythm of typing gets us from page one to page two. When you begin to feel your own words, start typing them.
Forrester: Punch the keys for God’s sake! Yes! You’re the man now, dog.
Sean Connery as William Forrester, a character inspired by J. D. Salinger – Finding Forrester
“When asked ‘How do you write?‘ I inevitably answer ‘one word at a time‘”
I could write this blog post in over 1000 characters, going on and on about the importance of starting something – anything
as opposed to just sitting on your ass, thinking about how to start. How the simple act of typing
– whatever random first words – unclogs that area in your brain responsible for inspiration. How, when you want to write something(a blog post, a short story or even an essay) but you don’t know exactly what, you could start by simply copying a random passage from a random book, and leave your mind flow from there to your own next sentence, own next scene. In the end, you might want to rewrite that initial first passage. Whatever. Don’t think about that end part, just think about the NOW.
But I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll just let the magic words of Stephen King and Sean Connery’s character from Finding Forrester sync in.
The year was 2005. I was having my lunch on a bench in the Trocadero Park, at the shadow of the Tour Eiffel. Hordes of tourists were bustling on the esplanade, photographing the breathtaking view. Me, on the other hand, was quite unimpressed by the view for which tens of millions fly to France each year. I had seen it hundreds of times. I was working at less than half a mile from the glorious symbol of Paris, in a software company providing the trading floor software for most of the banks in the top 50 world. Living and working there, in the 16eme Arrondissement, the poshest quarter of Paris, showed me that everything is possible; even for a Romanian geek born in the last decade of the communism regime and whose parents’ salaries were less than $200 per month. Me, on the other hand, had gotten my raise and, at age 24, was earning monthly more than both did in 1 year.
I was eating plums in the orchard of my girlfriend’s grandparents. The countryside evening was spectacular: dogs barking here and there, night butterflies flying around us, birds chirping to sleep. Surrounded by all the beauty of the simple life, I remembered this post.
Learn to be in the here and now, and experience life as it’s happening, and appreciate the world for the beauty that it is, right now. Practice makes perfect with this crucial skill.
Maybe happiness isn’t something you should aim for. Maybe happiness isn’t something you need to work at.
Maybe happiness is just like sunglasses. (more…)
Rereading a text I wrote last year reminded me something I wanted to articulate for quite a while. The power of meditation; but actually meditation is a word with too many and messy meanings. What I’m talking about is that powerful “take a break” moment that precedes most great breakthroughs.